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A poetic reminder of Ecolint's distinctiveness

mardi, 26 juin 2018   (0 Comments)
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Douglas Hofstadter (LGB '63), whose book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction, came back to La Grande Boissière - sixty years after his life was changed by attending the School - to address the Class of 2018. In his eloquent and deeply personal speech, Doug painted an inspiring and moving picture of Ecolint's uniqueness and its role as a catalyst for multicultural understanding.

Doug attended LGB for one year, in 1958. Hailing from a typical middle-class, mono-cultural town and middle school in California, where "hoods" (the school bullies) terrorised those they perceived as weak or different, Doug was bracing himself for a similar experience in Geneva, only en français. But after his first day at Ecolint, Doug realised he was in for a completely different experience: 

"What I soon found out was that there were no cliques at Ecolint.  There were no "hoods" at Ecolint.  [...] There were, instead, people of every imaginable national origin and skin color and religion and way of dressing and musical taste and sense of humor. Almost before I knew it, I’d made friends with kids from Scotland, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, South Africa, Pakistan, Peru, India, Iran, Brazil, and more. I heard languages spoken that I’d never even heard of before, and I witnessed a kind of tolerance I could never have imagined.  Where Wilbur [ed. Doug's middle school in California] had been filled with peer pressures galore, mindless conformity, and ugly intolerance, Ecolint was the diametric opposite.  Each of us was accepted exactly as we were, and international, cross-cultural friendship was the name of the game."

Doug Hofstadter with his 3rd form class

In his graduation speech, Doug went on to praise Ecolint's distinctive culture, and the remarkable esprit he encountered when mingling with other alumni at World Reunions and other gatherings. 

"In the minds and souls of Ecolint alumni, there was something that had been nurtured during their years in Geneva that gave rise to a lasting flame of idealism that spurred them on to do great things, such as becoming a U.N. diplomat, or writing a touching memoir about one’s multicultural life, or being a simultaneous interpreter, or fostering international relations in one’s homeland, or even being a polyglot taxi driver!  A few of the Ecolint alumni whom I met had gone on to become well-known, while most, of course, had not, but all were pervaded by an idealistic fire and an unquenchable love for diversity and tolerance that moved me to the core."

Mr. Hofstadter urged the 2018 graduates to value their Ecolint education and the perspectives it has granted them, and to use these diligently in an increasingly complex world: 

"As brand-new graduates of Geneva’s Ecolint, you all have the potential to help reverse the terrifyingly violent erosion of international trust and cooperation that is taking place all around the globe, and I fervently hope that whether you go on to become diplomats, interpreters, pastry chefs, teachers, or taxi drivers, you will always radiate the open-minded Ecolint spirit, and will inspire others to live lives that are culturally and linguistically rich, and above all, lives that are deeply respectful towards and warmly welcoming of human diversity."

Doug came back to the LGB campus on the Monday following graduation to give a lecture to Year 12 students about the finer aspects of poetry and translation, dipping into his passion for linguistics and aesthetics. He had issued a challenge to the students a few months prior, a challenge he has been issuing for decades:  translating a 16th century French poem, written for a sick young girl, in keeping with the poem's original structural constraints. By reading several versions that he had received over the years, and those just recently from within the Ecolint community, Doug masterfully displayed the intricacies and subtleties of language. 

You can read Douglas Hofstatder's entire graduation speech here

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